There are a lot of Marys on the road to Kerry

We said we’d bring the kids up without religion but one is enthralled by the Virgin Mary

We were fortunate enough to get a last-minute invitation from my parents-in-law to join them for a few days on holidays in Kerry. The notice was too short for my husband to be able to get time off work. (When you’re on maternity leave you notice how much of a pain work is for everyone else – it takes up so much time and stresses people out.) But I decided to brave the journey anyway with the two babies in tow.

Feck it, it’s only Kerry and the roads are good. You don’t exactly have to be St Brendan.

Do you?

From the outset I’ll say it was a good thing Husband couldn’t join us because there was no room for him anyway. We packed light (I thought) but the boot, the floor, the space between the two baby seats and the passenger seat were all full to the brim with the essentials.


“Is this essential?” was my test for packing. “Essential” made it to the car. I looked my husband up and down, looked him in the eye and deemed him “non essential”.

So the essentials and I set off on our voyage. The baby kindly slept while the toddler and I chatted and I finally realised the point of teaching kids the noises that animals make is to give you something to talk about on long car journeys.

You can get a good bit of mileage out of: “There’s a cow/There’s a sheep/There’s a horse” and “What sound does the cow/sheep/horse make?”


The only drawback to the good roads is that there's not a whole pile to break it all up. You'd nearly look forward to the inevitable half-hour traffic jam in Adare just for something else to look at and keep you interested.

There was only so much “There’s a black car” and “There’s a blue road sign” I could get away with on the motorway before I resorted to “Do you see that? That’s called a pylon.”

We had thought that we would bring the kids up without religion and we’ve often remarked how odd it will be that they will never know about a priest or a nun or a Mass or a Glorious Mystery the way we did. But there’s a hell of a lot of Marys along the road and it was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I added to my repertoire: “Look at the cows! Look at the sheep! Look at Mary in the church! Look at Mary in the school! Look at Mary in the graveyard! Look at Mary in the garden! Look at Mary in the roundabout!”

The child is now fully enthralled by the Virgin Mary. So much so that we get constant requests to “Go see Mary” and have to make a daily pilgrimage to a statue of Mary standing in the middle of a nearby roundabout. If we go on foot, we walk right into the roundabout to have a look. If we’re in the car, we do a few laps before we all get dizzy, the toddler says “bye Mary!” and we indicate off the roundabout for home.


She recently pointed to a statue of Our Lady of Fatima in my parents’ house, correctly identifying her as “Mary!” and my mother nearly gave herself whiplash turning her head to me in shock (and delight).

When another family member asked what the toddler would like for her birthday, I tried to think what she’s into and thought: maybe some Paw Patrol figurines or a statuette of Our Lady? Smyth’s or a church shop – whichever’s handiest for you.

My final trick for passing the time on the journey to the Kingdom was to offer myself up as a human jukebox. A jukebox with only one song: Baby Shark. If you’ve never heard it before, the lyrics are simple. In fact there are only three words – baby, shark, do – and it goes like this: “Baby shark do do do do do do, baby shark do do do do, baby shark do do do do do do do do do.”

Though only one song, I took requests for different sharks on every verse. So we went through Mama Shark , Dada Shark etc.

Nightly prayers

And even though we hadn’t introduced the toddler to religion, I realised her approach to Baby Shark was the same approach I had taken as a child to the “God bless Mammy and God Bless Daddy” section of my nightly prayers. That approach was to run through every single person I’d ever met. Even the childminder of a friend of mine (as well as her husband and two children) were included by me every single night and I’d met them only once.

I thought this level of God-fearing would be absent from my daughter’s life – and maybe it is – but her conscientiousness certainly is not because we went through each and every person she knows: grannies and grandas, all her aunts and uncles and cousins, her teacher, her school pals, every character in Paw Patrol, Rosie Doggy (the neighbourhood dog) and even Mary herself.

I later heard her sing “Everybody Shark do do do do” to herself – much like the catch-all clause I included in my own childhood prayer (“And God bless everyone I know”).

The fear of anyone being left out has not skipped a generation.

All this got us as far as Durrow before there was a request for a screen. I happily passed it back.

Pandemic Pregnancy
Part 1: This is all getting a bit Angela's Ashes
Part 2: We got bad news at the first baby scan
Part 3: What's the oldest woman you've delivered?
Part 4: Not yet telling your colleagues about the baby
Part 5: It turns out, I do miss my husband
Part 6: Asking if the baby had magically appeared
Part 7: Apprehensive about having a second child 
Part 8: I'm living for my monthly maternity check-ups
Part 9: We decide we'll take a little holiday
Part 10: Maternity leave during lockdown has advantages
Part 11: I bat away suggestions for coping with labour
Part 12: 'Natural' is great if the birth is going well
Part 13: My baby is big, so I'm going to be induced
Part 14: I was with epidural and it was glorious
Part 15: I just wanted to sleep for 10 hours
Part 16: Sometimes I feel trapped under the baby
Part 17: Time to head back into the real world
Part 18: Our toddler has adapted far too well
Part 19: Locate a small baby and strap it to yourself
Part 20: A lot of Marys on the road to Kerry